Local model railroad group hosting Train and Toy Show again Saturday

With a model train stopped on the tracks, Bob Bicknell looked it over carefully before using a controller to allow the string of rail cars to go through a tunnel.

Near the tunnel was a line of illuminated buildings and toy cars and trucks that the Seymour man has collected over the years.

While he said it may be an expensive hobby, model railroading is good, clean, safe fun for all ages.

“I’ll be 81 next month, so I’m getting old, but you never get too old or too young for trains,” Bicknell said, smiling.

Bicknell is president of the Seymour-based Southern Indiana Model Railroad Association, which hosted Seymour’s Train and Toy Show on Saturday at a new location, the Seymour Museum Center. In previous years, the annual holiday show was at the Jackson County Public Library in Seymour.

If you missed the show, it will take place again this Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the museum, 220 N. Chestnut St., Seymour. Again, all scales of trains will be running, and vintage toys will be on display. There also will be a drawing for door prizes every hour, and a train set will be given away at 3 p.m. You must be present to win.

Bicknell also is on the museum board that is working to restore the historic building, which formerly housed the post office and police station, and turn it into a display of Seymour’s past and present.

The ultimate goal is to get the second-floor exhibit room remodeled so SIMRA can meet there weekly and have its model trains on display.

Considering Seymour’s history with trains and the model railroad group being based in the city, Bicknell said it makes sense for the museum and SIMRA to partner.

Lenny Hauersperger, president of the museum board, said the exhibit room renovation is part of the second phase of a four-phase project.

“Since Seymour was formed because of the railroad, we wanted to partner with them from Day 1, but it took awhile to get a room ready,” he said of the Phase 1 work that has been done to allow the club to have space to set up displays on the first floor of the museum for its annual show.

“The plan is to have them upstairs. That’s where they want to be, and then they could even have a workshop in the old room up there,” he said.

The Train and Toy Show serves a dual purpose: Getting people interested in the club and model railroading and showcasing the renovation that has been done on the museum so far.

The club has nearly 20 members, and Bicknell would like to have more.

“A lot of adults, they like doing it, they just don’t realize what value it is to the kids,” he said. “That’s the main thing is trying to reach the kids and get them into a hobby, get them off the streets and keep them interested.”

SIMRA formed in 2005 and now has members ranging in age from 4 to 83. The cost to join is $11 per month, and meetings are at 7 p.m. every Thursday in the basement of Trinity United Methodist Church, 333 S. Chestnut St., Seymour.

“We always have a need for new members. The only difference between a 5-year-old and an 80-year-old is the price of the train,” Bicknell said, smiling.

The youngest member is Connor Surenkamp. His father, Cody Surenkamp, and grandfather, Gregg Surenkamp, inspired him to join.

“I bought him his first engine, and he thinks that’s a Cadillac, man,” Gregg said, smiling. “He doesn’t know how to program or anything, but he gets the handhelds and he just runs. We got a camera that we mount to one of our engines … he runs that for us.”

Gregg is one of the founding members of the club, and he said Cody joined when he was Connor’s age.

“I had (Cody) started when he was just a tyke,” Gregg said. “If we can get one youth to be interested in the hobby instead of (bad things), I am tickled to death.”

Another family connection in the club is Alex Bicknell, Bob’s son. He said he enjoys the weekly meetings, particularly educating the younger members on the ins and outs of model trains.

He also had a good time interacting with people during Saturday’s show. He said it took about three weeks to get the model train layouts set up in two rooms.

“It’s all to try to get kids and adults back into it,” Alex said. “The joy on their face is what makes our day, to see their face light up. They are enthusiastic.”

Club member Tim Thompson, a Cortland native who now lives in Jennings County, said model trains bring out the kid in everyone. He said it was fun to showcase that and the club’s work at the show.

“It’s very exciting for us because it seems like it’s one thing when you’re by yourself or your family is enjoying it, but when you get out and see, especially the little ones and the older ones alike, they enjoy it,” he said. “Their eyes light up, and I tell you what, the older you get, the more you appreciate that.”

Since joining the club, Thompson said he has learned a lot about model trains from other members.

“It’s amazing the detail that comes into play through the weights, the sizes, the scales,” he said. “Every meeting I’ve been to, I’ve brought something home as far as knowledge and learning. We constantly are exchanging ideas. … It just really cultivates within all of us best practices and how to keep my equipment running or if I’m not running, how do I fix it.”